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Antinous (Greek, Ἀντίνοος, Antinoos; circa 111 - 130 AD) from Bythinia, northwestern Anatolia (Asia Minor). The exact dates of his birth and death are unknown, but it is thought that he died before the end of October 130 AD at the age of 18-20. He met Emperor Hadrian when he was in his teens, perhaps during Hadrian's visit to Bythinia around 123/124 AD, and became his "favourite" and probably his lover (eromenos).
He accompanied Hadrian on his tour of the empire, visiting Greece, Asia Minor and Egypt. After he drowned in the Nile at or near Hermopolis, Hadrian deified him, without consulting the Roman Senate, and erected many busts and statues of him at sanctuaries for his cult throughout the Roman Empire. He even founded a port on the east bank of the Nile, at the place where Antinous drowned, and named it Antinoopolis (Ἀντινόουπόλις). 
The location of Antinous' tomb is not known. Although it seems most likely that he was buried at Antinoopolis, it has also been suggested that Hadrian brought his body to the Antinoeion, the temple built in his honour at Hadrian's Villa in Tivoli, outside Rome, which was discovered in 1998. The question is further confused by an inscription on the Obelisk of Antinous (also known as the Pincian Obelisk), now in Rome, which appears to claim that it marks Antinous' grave (see below
A large number of depictions of Antinous have survived as statues, busts and reliefs, as well as on coins and medals issued by several cities across the Roman Empire. The handsome young man was often depicted in the guise of a Greek, Roman or Egyptian deity or mythological hero, including: Osiris, Apis or Osiris-Apis, Hermes, Hermes-Thoth, Horos-Harpokrates, Men, Dionysus, Dionysus-Osiris, Iacchos, Apollo, Asklepios, Poseidon, a river god, Herakles, Bellerophon, Androklos.
He was usually represented as a mythological figure with a particular significance for the people at the places where the sculptures were set up. At Ephesus, for example, he was depicted as Androklos, the legendary founder of the city (see photo below
Hadrian was perhaps hoping for acceptance of the worship of Antinous by assimilation into local religious beliefs and practices. It is uncertain what the local people in various places around the empire thought of the imposition of the cult, or how popular it became or remained after Hadrian's death in 138 AD, although coins depicting Antinous were still being issued during the reign of Caracalla (198-217 AD), and it is known that there were still cult followers and statues standing until the prohibition of pagan religions by Emperor Theodosius I in 391 AD.
It may be that some were affronted by appropriation of their ancient cult images by the newcomer. However, during the reign of Hadrian (117-138 AD) the Roman Empire was at the height of its power and prosperity in a period of consolidation and construction, from which many profited, particularly the wealthy Romanized citizens. New gods had already been widely accepted, including Egyptian and syncretic deities such as Serapis, and worship of the deified emperors appears to have become the norm.
The wealthy Athenian Herodes Atticus
, a younger contemporary of Hadrian who built a number of sanctuaries for Antinous, later established a similar cult for his young eromenos Polydeukes.
Marble portrait head of Antinous from
Hadrian's Villa, Tivoli. 130-138 AD.
Palazzo Massimo alle Terme,
National Museum of Rome.
Inv. No. 1192.
Marble head of Antinous wearing
a crown of myrtle. Around 130-138 AD.
Pergamon Museum, Berlin.
Inv. No. Sk 363.
Purchased in Cairo in 1878.
An engraving of the relief depicting Antinous in the Villa Albani,
Rome, published by the art historian Winckelmann in 1767.
After a drawing by Nikolaus Mosmann (circa 1727-1787).
Height of relief 102 cm, width 77 cm.
Johann Joachim Winckelmann, Monumenti antichi inediti spiegati ed illustrati da
Giovanni Winckelmann, Volume I (Unedited antique monuments, described and
illustrated by Giovanni Winckelmann). Rome, 1767. At Heidelberg University Digital Library.
Mondragone head, plate 179; Albani relief, plate 180.
|The fragmented relief was discovered in 1735 at Hadrian's Villa in Tivoli and immediately acquired by Cardinal Alessandro Albani, after which it became known as the "Albani Relief". It still stands over a fireplace in the Villa Albani where the cardinal set it up in the 1760s, apart from a short hiatus 1798-1815 when it was in Paris, having been confiscated by Napoleon's troops.
Much of the Albani Collection was later sold off and the works are now dispersed among many collections and museums around the world (for example, the Capitoline Museums, Naples, Dresden and the Louvre). However, several works are still in the private collection of the villa which has belonged to the Torlonia family since 1866. The relief is not currently on display.
An engraving of the relief, after a drawing by the portrait painter Pompeo Batoni (1708-1787), was published in 1736. Winckelmann's praised the relief and the "Antinous Mondragone" head (image, right), which he called "the glory and crown of art in this age as well as in others" and "so immaculate that it appears to have come fresh out of the hands of the artist". Notably, the engraving of the relief in his Monumenti antichi inediti (Tavolo 180) is the only one in the book to be signed by an artist, and is of a much higher quality than the other printed illustrations (even if it does make Antinous look slightly obese). His publication of the relief led to its wider fame which was further spread by the sale of plaster casts, paintings and prints. Portraits of Antinous became fashionable as an ideal of youthful male beauty from the 18th century, and were eagerly sought after by collectors.
The relief was restored to show the figure holding a lotus garland in his left hand, although Winckelmann believed that he should be holding the reins of a horse. It has been suggested that figure depicts Antinous as Vertumnus, the Roman god of seasons, plant growth, gardens and fruit trees (see also a relief of Antinous as Silvanus below). So few depictions of this god have survived that the identification remains doubtful. It has even been mooted that the work is a modern fake.
Engraving of the "Antinous Mondragone",
a colossal head of Antinous, from
Winckelmann's Monumenti antichi inediti
(Tavolo 179). Said to have been found
between 1713 and 1729 at Frascati,
the head was displayed as part of the
Borghese Collection in the Villa
Mondragone there. Now in the Louvre.
Parian marble. Height 95 cm.
Louvre Museum, Paris.
Inv. No. Ma 1205 (MR 412).
Purchased for Napoleon in 1807.
The Obelisk of Antinous (Obeliscus Antinoi), also known as the Pincian Obelisk
or Barberini Obelisk, now in the Viale dell'Obelisco, on the Pincian Hill, Rome.
Aswan pink granite. Present height 9.75 metres.
|The obelisk is thought to have been commissioned by Emperor Hadrian as a monument to Antinous. The inscriptions in Egyptian hieroglyphs on all four sides of the shaft, perhaps translated from a text written by Hadrian himself, are considered among the most important primary sources concerning Antinous and his cult (see also the inscription from Lavinium below), although it contains no biographical information about him.
The original location of the obelisk is unknown, but it may have stood either in the Antinoeion at Hadrian's Villa in Tivoli or in the gardens of the Palatine Hill. According to another theory, it may have been brought to Rome from Egypt in the 3rd century AD, during the reign of Emperor Elagabalus (218-22 AD), who may have set it up in the Circus Varianus near the Porta Maggiore. Equally, it is uncertain whether the Egyptian hieroglyphs were inscribed in Egypt or Rome. The unusual orthography of the text has proved very difficult to translate and interpret, making it yet another subject of debate, and it has been suggested that the text was written or inaccurately copied by someone with a poor understanding of Egyptian sacred language.
The inscription on one side is in praise of Hadrian, and on the other three sides Antinous is described as a "beautiful youth", proclaimed as the new god Osiris-Antinoos, with details of his attributes, cult and daily offerings to him, and he is depicted before Thoth, Amun, and another deity. There is also a description of the city of Antinoopolis, inhabited by Greeks and Egyptians, and the colossal temple of Antinous there, built of limestone in a mix of Egyptian and Greek styles, surrounded by sphinxes and statues. A hippodrome in the city is also mentioned. A passage on the side thought to have been the south face appears to claim that Antinous is buried at the site of obelisk, apparently at the home of Hadrian:
"The blessed one who is in the afterlife and who lies in this sacred place which is found inside the gardens of the domain of the Prince in Rome." 
Even if the obelisk did stand in the Tivoli villa or the Palatine gardens, this claim is no proof that it marked the actual grave of Antinous: it may have been intended as a cenotaph (symbolic empty grave).
The obelisk was discovered in 1570 by the Saccoccia brothers, owners of the vineyard Vigna Saccoccia, outside Porta Maggiore. It appears they intended to erect it, although it is uncertain whether they managed to do so. The plaque recording their find was affixed to a pier of the Aqua Claudia aqueduct (which became part of the Acqua Felice in 1585), about 360 metres east of the Aurelian wall, and can still be seen there.
Around 1633 it was purchased by Cardinal Francesco Barberini and moved to the garden of the Palazzo Barberini, but was never erected there. In 1773 Cornelia Barberini gave it to Pope Clement XIV and it was taken to the Cortile della Pigna (Court of the Pine Cone) in the Vatican. Again, plans to set it up in the Vatican gardens were never realized. Eventually, in 1822 Pope Pius VII commissioned the Italian architect and archaeologist Guiseppe Valadier (1762-1839) to restore the obelisk, which had become broken into three pieces, and it was erected at its present location in September of the same year.
Sources do not agree on the height of the obelisk: the entire monument, including the modern base and star on top, is either 17.26 or 17.9 metres tall, and the ancient obelisk itself 9.24, 9.25, 9.35 or 9.75 metres tall. Take our pick - or your tape measure.
A marble slab with an inscription containing a statute
of the college of worshippers of Diana and Antinous.
136 AD. Found in 1816 on the Laviniense provincial road,
Lanuvium (today Lanuvio), 32 km southeast of Rome.
Baths of Diocletian, National Museum of Rome.
Inv. No. 1031. Inscription CIL 14.2112.
|The collegium (association) met at a newly built temple six times a year, on the birthdays of Diana, Antinous and four important local officials. The inscription is thought to have been set up on one of the walls in the temple.
The inscription has a single heading line across the length of the panel, below which is a column of thirty three lines on the left and a column of thirty two lines on the right. It begins with an account of the assembly of the college on 9th June 136 AD, during which L. Cesennius Rufus, patron of the municipium of Lavinium, donated 15,000 sesterces for the organization of religious feasts on the birthdays (dies natalis) of Diana and Antinous. It also mentions that the college was founded for charitable and funerary purposes on 1st January 133 AD, and that the Senate authorized prayers for Emperor Hadrian and his family. The statute details rules concerning subscriptions, fines for defaulters, exemptions and privileges for certain members, and prodedures for members' funerals, including those for slaves and suicides.
|Classicistic Marble statue of Antinous as Apollo.
Parian Marble. Around 130-138 AD. Excavated 1st July 1894 
behind the Temple of Apollo, Delphi. Height 184 cm.
Delphi Archaeological Museum. Inv. No. 1718.
|This statue is considered important to the understanding of the iconography of portraits of Antinous since it is one of the few for which the archaeological context is known, and although the broken legs were repaired, unlike many other sculptures (particularly those from Rome) it has not been altered by modern restoration.
The findspot (see photo below) is one of the two rooms in the Roman period building west of the opisthodomos (rear porch) of the Temple of Apollo, close to the peribolos wall. The function of the building is uncertain: it was dubbed "la Maison de l'Antinous" (the House of the Antinous) by the French archaeologists who discovered the statue, and is also referred to as the Propylaios and the House of the Pythia, due to inscriptions thought to refer to the building.
When it was unearthed the statue was still upright and described as shining, due to the special oil with which it had been polished. Holes drilled around the head were for attaching a laurel wreath, perhaps of gold or gilded bronze. The figure stands on its original black marble base. The lower arms and hands are missing, but it is thought that the figure may have held one of the attributes of Apollo, such as a lyre or a bow.
"It is one of the most stately statues of Hadrian's favourite in existence, and the surface has a brilliance like that of porcelain, produced by a polishing, which starts in Hadrian's time, and is produced by rubbing with wool dipped in oil and salve, the "Ganosis" often mentioned in literature.
The statue, in its blend of lost manhood and mawkish sweetness, is a typical specimen of the spirit of the Hadrianic age. The artist chose for his model a statue of Apollo from the school of Pheidias, known by two copies, one at Rome, found in the Tiber [see photo right], and one in Cherchel.
But while the powerful breast goes beyond the athletic model, the epigastrium is smooth and without muscles, and the oblique muscles of the abdomen and hip muscles are weak, while the long legs are almost feminine in their roundness and softness. In these details it was intended to do honour to the dainty youth, who is further characterised by lack of pubes, by elegant childish curls about his round cheeks, by the small dreamy eyes, the mystical sweetness of the lips and the delicate inclination of the head towards the left shoulder.
In the form of this late-antique god the Hadrianic sculptors sought to reconcile the irreconcilable; as pure classicists they brought to life again the male athlete's vigour of the fifth century, and at the same time they had to represent the prettiness of this Imperial favourite.
A Delphic inscription states that it was a priest of Apollo who proposed the introduction of the cult of Antinous at Delphi, and after his death Delphic coins were struck in his memory by order of the Amphictyonic Council. That Delphi, as little as Olympia, where was found a broken statue of Antinous, could resist the wish of the powerful Emperor, is easily intelligible but it is more wonderful that the cult of Antinous at Delphi, to judge by the circumstances of the find, lasted till the downfall of paganism.
Modern times find it hard to understand the readiness of ancient peoples to admit mortals among the gods, and in particular cannot believe in the sincerity of feelings towards this Imperial favourite. For it was not in this case a nation which had loved a fair man, as in his time Philip of Croton became a hero because of his beauty; but Antinous was raised from a low origin to the circle of the gods by the order of a ruler.
Hadrian based the apotheosis of his beloved on Egyptian religion. Herodotus in his time tells us that those who lost their lives by drowning in the Nile were honoured as sacred corpses where they came to shore , and thus the Emperor justified the admission of Antinous to Olympus after his mysterious disappearance.
On the Barberini Obelisk, now standing on the Monte Pincio at Rome, the hieroglyphics relate how the Egyptian gods welcome Antinous into their circle, and how he prays to Harmachis for Hadrian, Sabina, and the whole empire, and begs the Father of the gods for fruitfulness of the Egyptian fields. In the dry Egyptian world of gods he was evidently a young and fresh figure, and at the same time drew closer the connexion between the old religion of the country and the cult of the Imperial house. In the whole heroizing of Antinous there is more expert policy and less love-rapture than one would a priori think.
That belief in Antinous really went down into the broad layers of the Egyptian people is shown by the numerous amulet coins with his image found in Egyptian graves, bored to wear round the neck with a ribbon, or to fasten on a mirror, often even imitated in cheaper lead. Terracotta slabs with his likeness were fastened on Egyptian sarcophagi as talismans for the dead. Even in the fourth century A.D. Antinous' name constantly appears in inscriptions on wooden mummy cases, and thus gives a sure proof of the strength and permanence of this belief.
To the expansion of the belief to the farthest parts of Greece and Asia Minor coins with his image bear witness, which are now known from more than fifty ancient cities. But that he was worshipped even in Hellas, centuries after his death, we learn for the first time from this find at Delphi.
With the Antinous statue the cycle of Greek portraiture is complete; the development finishes, as it began, in abstract divinity. But what a difference between the two athlete types, one from the dawn, the other from the evening, of the development, the strong and pithy Delphic Twins , and the sweet and flaccid Antinous!"
Frederik Poulson, Delphi, pages 324-326. Translated by G. C. Richards. Gyldendal, London, 1920. At archive.org.
The porcelain-like quality of the marble can still be admired, despite the marks and discolouring caused by centuries beneath the earth. However, the brilliance and sheen of the surface is difficult to appreciate due to the flat museum lighting.
The "Tiber Apollo" statue with
which the Delphi Antinous
has been compared.
Pentelic marble. 2nd century AD.
The type is thought to be an
Imperial Roman period) early 1st
century AD) reworking of mid 5th
century BC Greek Classical models.
Found in 1897 in the River Tiber
near the Ponte Palatine, Rome.
The figure probably held a laurel
branch in the left hand and
a bow in the right.
Palazzo Massimo alle Terme.
National Museum of Rome.
Inv. No. 608.
The discovery of the Antinous statue in Delphi on 1st July 1894.
Source: M. F. Courby, Fouilles de Delphes, Tome II, Fig. 192, page 242.
École Française d'Athènes. E. de Boccard, Paris, 1927.
Marble bust of Antinous.
Thasian marble. 130-138 AD. Found 1856 in Patras, Peloponnese. Height 67 cm.
National Archaeological Museum, Athens. Inv. No. 417.
One of two busts of Antinous found in Patras and now in the Athens museum.
The other, Inv. No. 418, is not in such a good condition, and is not on display.
Restored portrait head of Antinous on a modern bust.
130-134 AD. From Rome. Probably from the Polignac Collection.
Height of bust with head 98 cm; height of head 27 cm.
Altes Museum, Berlin. Inv. No. Sk 364.
|Purchased in Rome around 1770 by the art dealer Giovanni Ludovico Bianconi, acting as an agent for King Friedrich II of Prussia (Frederick the Great, 1712-1786). It was then restored in the workshop of the sculptor and restorer Bartolomeo Cavaceppi in Rome. On its arrival in Berlin the restored bust was considered by Matthias Oesterreich to be a modern replica, and at first (before 1772) it was set up in the gardens of the Neues Palais, Sanssouci, Potsdam. The work was reevaluated in 1830, after which it was moved to the Königliche Museum in Berlin.
See two Antinous statues purchased for Frederick the Great below, here and here.
Colossal marble bust of Antinous.
Found in 1790 at Hadrian's Villa, Tivoli, near Rome.
Height 100 cm (without modern socle).
Museo Pio-Clementino, Vatican Museums, Rome. Inv. No. 251.
Photo by James Anderson (1813-1877), taken around 1890.
The "Townley Antinous", a marble head
of Antinous as Dionysus on a modern bust.
130-138 AD. Found in 1770 near the
Villa Pamphili, Rome. Height 60 cm.
Inv. No. 1805,7-3.97 (Sculpture 1899).
From the Townley Collection.
Marble head of Antinous as Dionysus,
wearing a laurel wreath with berries,
on a modern bust.
"Haupttypus", variant B. Height 72 cm.
Galleria, Palazzo Nuovo,
Capitoline Museums, Rome.
Inv. No. MC 294.
From the Albani Collection.
Marble busts of Hadrian and Antinous exhibited together in the British Museum.
For some reason, the bust Hadrian, also from the Townley Collection, has
been placed further forward than the "Townley Antinous" (see above).
The only known instance in ancient art in which the pair are thought to appear
together is on the tondi of the Arch of Constantine in Rome (see below).
Hadrian bust, Roman 117-138 AD. Probably from Rome.
Inv. No. 1805.7-3.94 (Sculpture 1897).
|Black marble statuette of Antinous as Dionysus.
130-134 AD. Provenance unknown. From the collection of Giovanni Grimani (1506-1593),
bishop and patriarch of Aquileia, in Venice. Nero antico marble from Göktepe, near
Aphrodisias (Turkey). Restored height 86.5 cm; height of surviving ancient work 57 cm.
Although the figure has been compared to statues of Apollo, it was identified
as Antinous-Dionysus, and the staff he holds in his left hand is thought to be
part of the wine god's thyrsos (see Dionysus).
Altes Museum, Berlin. Inv. No. Sk 362. Donated in 1854 by Anton Steinbüchel von Rheinwall.
|Pausanias on Antinous worshipped as Dionysus in Mantineia, Arkadia, Peloponnese:
"Antinous too was deified by them; his temple is the newest in Mantineia. He was a great favourite of the Emperor Hadrian. I never saw him in the flesh, but I have seen images and pictures of him. He has honours in other places also, and on the Nile is an Egyptian city named after Antinous. He has won worship in Mantineia for the following reason. Antinous was by birth from Bithynium beyond the river Sangarius, and the Bithynians are by descent Arcadians of Mantineia.
For this reason the Emperor established his worship in Mantineia also; mystic rites are celebrated in his honour each year, and games every four years. There is a building in the gymnasium of Mantineia containing statues of Antinous, and remarkable for the stones with which it is adorned, and especially so for its pictures. Most of them are portraits of Antinous, who is made to look just like Dionysus."
Pausanias, Description of Greece, Book 8, chapter 9, sections 7-8. At Perseus Digital Library.
Colossal marble statue of Antinous as Bacchus.
Roman creation, 2nd century AD. Height 297 cm.
Provenance unknown. Recorded as being in
the Farnese Collection in Rome from 1644.
National Archaeological Museum, Naples.
Inv. No. 6314.
Marble statue of Antinous, of the type
Dionysus or Asklepios, standing next
to the Delphic ompalos.
Found in 1860 in Eleusis. 2nd century AD.
Height 167 cm.
The statue may have stood in the outer
courtyard of the Sanctuary of Demeter.
Antinous was with Hadrian and the
imperial entourage at the celebration
of the Eleusinian Mysteries in 128/9 AD,
and may have been initiated into the cult
at Eleusis (see Demeter). An ephebic
festival known as the Antinoeia was
established there in his honour.
Eleusis Archaeological Museum. Inv. No. 5092.
Egyptianizing statue of Antinous as the Egyptian god Osiris.
Marble, 2nd century AD. From the sanctuary of Isis (Αιγυπτιακό
ιερό στην Μπρεξίζα, the Egyptian Temple at Brexiza) at Brexiza,
southeast of Marathon, Attica, built by the wealthy Athenian
Herodus Atticus (circa 101-177 AD) who also founded a cult
for his young protegé Polydeukes.
National Archaeological Museum, Athens.
Egyptian Collection. Inv. No. 1.
A bust (Inv. No. 173) and the torso of a sitting statue of
Antinous were discovered in 1977 and 1996 respectively,
in the villa of Herodes Atticus at Eva, near Loukou, in the
Peloponnese. They are now in the nearby Archaeological
Museum of Astros (currently not open to the public).
Egyptianizing head of Antinous as the Egyptian god Osiris.
130-138 AD. Red sandstone. Perhaps from the
Serapeum of Hadrian's Villa, Tivoli. Height 34 cm.
Skulpturensammlung, Albertinum, Dresden. Inv. No. Hm 023.
|Purchased in 1728 in Rome for August the Strong (August II. der Starke, 1670-1733), elector of Saxony and king of Poland, from Prince Augusto Chigi (1662-1744), among 160 sculptures acquired from the collection of his father Prince Agostino Chigi (1634-1705). August's agents also purchased 34 works from the collection of Cardinal Alessandro Albani.
Previously thought to represent Isis or a sphinx, the head was only identified as a portrait of Antinous at the beginning of the 19th century. Exhibited in the Albertinum, Dresden since 1730, it is currently (2017) in a makeshift (and dismally lit) temporary exhibition of ancient sculptures in crowded display cases, following damage to the building caused by flooding in 2002.
|Marble relief showing Antinous as Silvanus, the Roman god of the woods, harvesting grapes.
Pentelic marble, 130-138 AD. Found in 1907 in the ruins of a villa in a residential area
at Torre del Padiglione, between Lanuvio and Anzio. Height 143 cm, width 70 cm.
The figure wears a crown made of a pine branch and a short tunic, and holds a falx (sickle) in his
right hand. A dog stands on the right. On the left is an altar topped by a pine cone, and on the
side the signature of the artist Antonianos of Aphrodisias (see photo below) inscribed in Greek.
Palazzo Massimo alle Terme, National Museum of Rome. Inv. No. 374071.
Inscription in Greek on the side of the altar on the relief of Antinous as Silvanus:
ANTωNIANOC AΦPOΔEICIEYC EΠOIEI (Antonianos of Aphrodisias made this).
A fragmentary marble statue of Antinous as Androkles,
the legendary or mythical Athenian founder of Ephesus.
Found in 1927 in the Vedius Gymnasium, Ephesus.
Roman period, 138-161 AD.
Part of a statue group, perhaps depicting the legend
of Androklos with his dog hunting a wild boar.
Izmir Archaeological Museum. Inv. No. 45.
Marble head of Antinous.
Greek marble. 130-138 AD. Found 1869 in the sanctuary of the Magna Mater, Ostia, Rome.
Here Antinous wears a double-torse crown (or bust crown) with reliefs of Nerva (or Trajan)
and Hadrian, which perhaps suggests that he is depicted as a priest of the Imperial cult.
Palazzo Massimo alle Terme, National Museum of Rome. Inv. No. 341.
For more information about bust crowns see Selçuk gallery 1, page 4.
The pair of tondos on the left (east) side of the north face of the Arch of Constantine, Rome.
The tondo on the left shows three men on horseback hunting a boar. The central figure is
thought to be Antinous, and on the right is Hadrian, later resculpted to portray Constantine.
On the right-hand tondo, depicting three men sacrificing to Apollo, Hadrian's head has been
reworked to depict Licinius or Constantius I.
|The Arch of Constantine, the largest in Rome and perhaps the last to built in the city, stands astride the Via Triumphalis (the Triumphal Way), in the Valley of the Colosseum, between the east side of the Palatine Hill and the Colosseum.
In 315/316 AD the Senate and people of Rome dedicated the triumphal arch to Emperor Constantine (reigned 306-337 AD) to celebrate his decennalia (ten years as emperor) and his victory over his rival emperor Maxentius at the Battle of the Milvian Bridge in 312 AD. However, it has been argued that the arch itself may have been erected during the reign of an earlier emperor, perhaps Hadrian, Maxentius or even as early as Domitian (81-96 AD).
The archway is 21 metres high, 25.9 metres wide and 7.4 metres deep. The main central arch, 11.5 metres high and 6.5 metres wide, is flanked by two smaller lateral arches, each 7.4 metres high and 3.4 metres wide. The building is covered with reliefs, many taken from earlier monuments of the reigns of Trajan, Hadrian and Marcus Aurelius.
Above each of the lateral arches, on both sides of the building, is a pair of marble tondos (or roundels) taken from an unknown monument of Emperor Hadrian, depicting scenes of hunting and sacrificing. The tondos are all around 2.4 metres in diameter. The tondo pairs are displayed on the archway as follows:
North face: left side, boar hunt, sacrifice to Apollo; right side, lion hunt, sacrifice to Hercules.
South face: left, departure for the hunt, sacrifice to Silvanus; right, bear hunt, sacrifice to Diana.
Many scholars are convinced that the central figure in the boar hunt scene is Antinous and that he may also be portrayed in other tondi. Although there appears to be no direct evidence for this, the head of the young man has been compared to other known portraits of Antinous. It is not known whether the scenes depict historical events or are allegorical, but Hadrian's alleged hunting exploits are mentioned in ancient literature, including a contemporary poem by the Alexandrian poet Pancrates in which Hadrian and Antinous hunt a lion in the Lybian desert. 
The relief below the pair of tondos above is part of the frieze from the time of Constantine that runs around the archway, depicting scenes of his victory over Maxentius and his acceptance by the people of Rome. In this scene, known as Oratio, he speaks to the citizens in the Forum after his victory. Unfortunately, the emperor has lost his head.
Photos of the north face of the arch were taken at a slightly oblique angle, since standing in the grassy area directly in front of it is not permitted (Don't step on the grass!).
The north side of the Arch of Constantine.
The boar hunt tondo on the north face of the Arch of Constantine.
The Apollo tondo on the north face of the Arch of Constantine.
The pair of tondos on the left (west) side of the south face of the Arch of Constantine.
Left, departure for the hunt; right, sacrifice to Silvanus, the Roman woodland god (see above).
The Constantinian frieze below depicts the Siege of Verona in October 312, a key victory
for Constantine as he marched to Rome for the final confrontation with his rival emperor
Maxentius at the Battle of the Milvian Bridge on 28th October. On the left, the victory
goddess Victoria (Nike) flies above Constantine's troops as they attack the city's walls.
The departure tondo on the left (west) side
of the south face of the Arch of Constantine.
Four figures stand with a horse and a dog in front of an archway
and appear to be setting off for a hunt. The now headless figure
in the centre is probably Hadrian (who may have appeared in all
the tondi), and the youthful figure on the left may be Antinous.
|Colossal marble statue with cornucopia, snake and portrait head of Antinous.
Around 130-138 AD. Findspot unknown. Height 237 cm.
Altes Museum, Berlin. Inv. No. Sk 361. Acquired in Rome in 1766.
|The ancient head of Antinous and the rest of statue may not belong to each other, and were probably combined in the 18th century. The attributes of the figure have been interpreted as those of Agathos Daimon, a protective spirit.
Purchased in 1766 from the workshop of the sculptor and restorer Bartolomeo Cavaceppi in Rome by the art dealer Giovanni Ludovico Bianconi, acting as an agent for King Friedrich II of Prussia (Frederick the Great, 1712-1786). It was set up outside Friedrich's Neues Palais, Sanssouci, Potsdam.
See a copy in Sanssouci and the "Omphalos Apollo" Antinous statue below.
The snake of the Berlin Antinous/Agathos Daimon statue.
|The marble torso of an "Omphalos Apollo" type statue modified as Antinous.
Around 130-138 AD. Height 189.5 cm.
Torso of Greek island marble, perhaps from Paros.
Altes Museum, Berlin. Inv. No. Sk 510 (head K 136).
|The torso, found in 1744 in the River Tiber near Rome, is one of several Roman period statues of the "Omphalos Apollo" type, believed to be copies of a Greek bronze original of the Severe style, made around 460-450 BC, perhaps by Kalamis.
The figure was restored by Bartolomeo Cavaceppi to resemble the "Capitoline Antinous" (see below). The head is from another, perhaps ancient statue, possibly of Hermes or an athlete. The close curls of the hair particularly are more typical of Hermes than Apollo, and are quite different to the style of other examples of the "Omphalos Apollo" type.
Also added were: the right forearm from the elbow to the wrist; the left arm from the middle of the upper arm, including the himation (cloak) and the stick-like object (Apollo would have held a bow or arrow, Hermes a caduceus); the genitals (the pubic hair was removed during a second restoration); the lower left thigh and left foot; the right leg and the palm tree trunk support.
The statue was purchased in Rome in 1766 by Giovanni Ludovico Bianconi, acting as an agent for King Friedrich II of Prussia (Frederick the Great). It was set up with 13 other statues in the Half Rondel in the gardens of Friedrich's Neues Palais, at his Sanssouci (without worries) estate, Potsdam, near Berlin. Later the statues were replaced by copies (see photos below).
The Omphalos Apollo type is named after a 2nd century AD copy found in 1862 at the Theatre of Dionysos, Athens (see photo, right), which was originally associated with a base in the shape of an omphalos. The identification has since been challenged, and it has been suggested that the figure represents Apollo Alexikakos (Απολλων Ἀλεξίκακος, the Averter of Evil), and even that it may have been a work of Onatas, another sculptor of the 5th century BC. On the other hand, the Kassel type Apollo statues are also thought to be copies of the Apollo Alexikakos by Kalamis which stood in the Athens Agora (Pausanias, Description of Greece, Book 1, Chapter 3, Section 3).
The "Omphalos Apollo" statue
found in 1862 at the
Theatre of Dionysos, Athens.
Pentelic marble. 2nd century AD.
Named after an omphalos-shaped
base with which it was once
associated. Height 176 cm.
National Archaeological Museum,
Athens. Inv. No. 45.
The so-called "Capitoline Antinous",
a marble statue of Hermes previously
believed to be a portrait of Antinous.
Roman period copy of a 4th century BC Greek
original. Luni marble. Height 180.1 cm.
Found at Hadrian's Villa, Tivoli in 1738 during
excavations financed by Cardinal Alessandro Albani.
Albani ceded his right to it to Pope Clement XII who
donated it to the Capitoline Museums. Taken to
Paris by Napoleon's troops, it was returned in 1815.
The restored figure is thought to have originally
held an inverted kerykeion (with the top pointing
downwards) in his right hand, perhaps conducting
a deceased person to Hades.
Palazzo Nuovo, Capitoline Museums, Rome.
Inv. No. MC 741. From the Albani Collection.
Head of a young man, perhaps Antinous.
3rd decade of the 2nd century AD.
Baths of Diocletian,
National Museum of Rome.
From the Maviglia Collection, Tivoli.
Marble head of a young man, the so-called
"Triptolemos". This is the only known head
of this type, identified as Triptolemos, the
young Eleusinian prince associated with
the cult of Demeter. The features strongly
resemble those of portraits of Antinous.
Roman period, 120-140 AD, perhaps a
copy of a Greek Classical type. Allegedly
found near Herculaneum (Italy) in 1750.
Height 34.7 cm, width 22.5 cm, depth 26 cm.
Purchased in Italy in 1755 by Markgräfin
Wilhelmine von Bayreuth, who left it in her
will to Frederick the Great in 1758/1759.
Separated from its Baroque bust, it entered
the Königliche Museum, Berlin in 1830.
Altes Museum, Berlin. Inv. No. Sk 479.
Head of a young man with a
restored nose, possibly Eros.
Circa 130-140 AD.
Dresden. Inv. No. Hm 087.
Plaster cast of the so-called "Ildefonso-Group". The head of the figure on the
left has been replaced with a portrait of Antinous of the Apollo-Antinous type.
Augustan and Hadrianic periods, 1st century BC - 2nd century AD.
Height 160 cm, width 112 cm, depth 58 cm.
Skulpturensammlung, Albertinum, Dresden. Inv. No. ASN 2379.
Purchased in 1783 with the cast collection of A. R. Mengs.
|The original statue group, made of white Carrara marble, is in the Museo del Prado, Madrid (Inv. No. 28-E). Also known as the San Ildefonso Group, it was named after San Ildefonso in Segovia, Spain, where it was kept at the palace of La Granja until 1839 when it was acquired by the Prado.
Probably found in the early 17th century in Rome, the earliest record of the sculpture is in 1623 when it was in the collection of Cardinal Ludovico Ludovisi at the Villa Ludovisi, Rome. After the cardinal's death it became the property of Cardinal Camillo Massimo, then Queen Christine of Sweden and later King Felipe V of Spain.
It is thought that the sculpture was made during the reign of Augustus (27 BC - 14 AD), and at some point the head of the youth on the left was replaced by a portrait of Antinous. This may have occurred either during Hadrian's reign or, more probably, when it was restored around 1623 by Ippolito Buzzi (1562–1634).
There is no other known statue group of this type, which is thought to be a Neo Attic creation inspired by works of 5th and 4th century BC Greek sculptors such as Polykleitos and Praxiteles. Two idealized nude youths, wearing laurel wreaths, stand next to each other. The figure on the left leans on the other who holds two torches, with one of which he ignites an altar. The youths have been variously identified as Orestes and Pylades, Castor and Pollux, Hypnos and Thanatos, and Corydon and Alexis.
Behind the right-hand figure stands a small female figure, probably a statue of a female divinity and perhaps Artemis or Persephone, wearing a polos and holding a sphere, interpreted as a pomegranate or an egg.
A large number of casts and copies in various materials (bronze, marble, cast iron, porcelain) have been made of the sculpture, and many are now in collections and museums.
Head of Antinous from the
"Ildefonso-Group" in Dresden.
An engraving of the "Ildefonso-Group"
in Rome, published by Johann Joachim Winckelmann in 1767. 
Ancient marble portrait bust restored as Antinous.
Carrara marble. The ancient bust, transformed by a restorer,
became part of the Ludovisi Collection some time after 1794.
Palazzo Altemps, National Museum of Rome. Inv. No. 8620. Ludovisi Collection.
||Notes, references and links
The city of Antinoopolis, also referred to as Antinoe, was built on the site of Hir-we, an ancient harbour in the Middle Nile region. The ruins today lie near the village of Sheikh 'Ibada. Antinous became the primary deity of the city, worshipped as Osiris-Antinous, alongside the traditional main deity Bes. The chief deity of Hermopolis (Greek, Ἑρμοῦπόλις Μεγάλη, Hermou polis megale; Latin, Hermopolis Magna; Egyptian, Khemenu) on the opposite bank of the Nile was Thoth, the underworld god identified by the Greeks with Hermes after whom the city was renamed during Ptolemaic times. Its remains are located near the modern town of El Ashmunein.
Read a report on the current situation (2013) at the site of Antinoopolis, detailing the destruction by unhindered looting, vandalism and illegal building:
Antinoupolis: Ongoing destruction. An illustrated PDF document posted on Kristian Strutt's blog about archaeological mapping and geophysical survey, kdstrutt.wordpress.com.
2. Inscriptions on the Obelisk of Antinous
Roger Pearse has translated part of the inscription from the French translation in: Jean-Claude Grenier, L’Osiris Antinoos, CENIM I (Cahiers Égypte Nilotique et Mediteranéene), Montpellier, 2008.
According to another (uncredited) attempt to translate the entire text at www.antinopolis.org, the passage reads:
"Antinous the God is here!
He rests in this place
Which is in the Border Fields of Our Lady Rome."
3. The date of the Delphi Antinous discovery
Some recent articles state that the Antinous statue in Delphi was discovered in 1893. The literature of the Delphi Archaeological Museum and other sources state 1894.
See, for example:
Gustave Blum, L'Antinoos de Delphes. In: Bulletin de correspondance hellénique, Volume 37, 1913, pages 323-339 (date of discovery of the statue on page 330).
4. Herodotus on victims of the Nile
"Whenever any one, either of the Egyptians themselves or of strangers, is found to have been carried off by a crocodile or brought to his death by the river itself, the people of any city by which he may have been cast up on land must embalm him and lay him out in the fairest way they can and bury him in a sacred burial-place, nor may any of his relations or friends besides touch him, but the priests of the Nile themselves handle the corpse and bury it as that of one who was something more than man."
G. C. Macaulay (translator), The History of Herodotus, Book 2, chapter 90. MacMillan and Co., London and New York, 1890. At Project Gutenberg.
5. "The strong and pithy Delphic Twins"
Poulson is referring to the archaic statues of twins in the Delphi Museum, thought to represent either Kleobis and Biton or Castor and Pollux (see the Dioskouroi page of the MFP People section). He discusses the statues in chapter 6, The Delphian twins.
6. Arch of Constantine, further reading
See: Gerald A. Hess, The Hadrianic tondo on the Arch of Constantine: new perspectives on the eastern paradigms. PhD dissertation, Department of Art History, Pennsylvania State University, 2011.
An excellent introduction to the historical context and iconography of the tondi on the arch, with a discussion of relevant literature ancient and modern (including works referring to the life of Antinous and portraits of him) and a bibliography. We like the description of Hadrian as "the electively impassioned philhellenic emperor".
7. Engraving of the "Ildefonso-Group" published by Winckelmann
Johann Joachim Winckelmann, Monumenti antichi inediti spiegati ed illustrati da
Giovanni Winckelmann, Volume I (Unedited antique monuments, described and
illustrated by Giovanni Winckelmann). Rome, 1767. At Heidelberg University Digital Library.
An unnumbered plate in the preface, between pages XIII and XIV.
|Photos on this page were taken during
visits to the following museums:
Berlin, Altes Museum
Berlin, Pergamon Museum
Dresden, Skulpturensammlung, Albertinum
Potsdam, Neues Palais, Sanssouci
Athens, National Archaeological Museum
Delphi Archaeological Museum
Eleusis Archaeological Museum
Naples, National Archaeological Museum
Rome, Capitoline Museums, Palazzo Nuovo
Rome, National Museum of Rome, Baths of Diocletian
Rome, National Museum of Rome, Palazzo Altemps
Rome, National Museum of Rome, Palazzo Massimo alle Terme
Izmir Archaeological Museum
London, British Museum
Many thanks to the staff of these museums.
|Photos and articles © David John|
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